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Thousands of New Year's Day flights canceled due to weather, COVID-19

Christmas travelers arrive at the Tom Bradley International Terminal at LAX in Los Angeles on December 23. File Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI | <a href="/News_Photos/lp/1531a53ba77525ac319cce8d2bb51ca3/" target="_blank">License Photo</a>
Christmas travelers arrive at the Tom Bradley International Terminal at LAX in Los Angeles on December 23. File Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI | License Photo

Jan. 1 (UPI) -- Nearly 4,500 New Year's Day flights were canceled Saturday, including 2,500 affecting the United States, as air carriers continued to struggle with the COVID-19 and wintry holiday weather.

Close to 7,000 additional flights were delayed globally as of late Saturday afternoon, according to the flight tracking website FlightAware.com, extending a pattern of disrupted air travel throughout the holiday season.

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In the United States, the most affected carriers were Southwest (473 cancelations, more than 13% of its schedule), SkyWest (452), American (206), Delta (188) and United (157).

The majority of the U.S. cancelations and delays either were coming into or departing from Chicago's O'Hare International Airport. The busy Midwestern hub had more than 800 cancelations and 175 delayed flights as the Chicago area was socked by a significant New Year's Day snowstorm.

RELATED JetBlue cancels 1,300 flights through mid-January due to rising Omicron illnesses

Up to 9 inches of snow accompanied by gusty winds was forecast for some areas of the city on Saturday, to be followed Sunday by temperatures plunging to as low as 20 degrees below zero Fahrenheit, according to the National Weather Service.

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With more than 12,000 U.S. flights canceled since Christmas Eve, the holiday travel season has been thrown into turmoil by the Omicron variant of COVID-19, as well as rough weather.

RELATED Thousands of flights canceled, delayed as COVID-19 hits record levels

The Federal Aviation Administration warned Friday than an "increased number" of its own employees are testing positive for the virus, which may result in forced reductions in traffic volumes to maintain adequate oversight and safety.

"Delays during busy periods" may result, the agency told CNN.

RELATED Nearly 3,000 more flights canceled due to Omicron surge, winter weather

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